Combine Nutrition and Taste for Healthy Meals

AMES, Iowa -- People have many motivations for choosing particular foods, including health, social and emotional reasons, but the most common reason is taste. That’s why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is recommending that Americans “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” during March, National Nutrition Month.

My Plate“People are more apt to buy the foods they enjoy eating,” said Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist. “For this National Nutrition Month, I encourage people to concentrate on how to combine nutrition and taste to create enjoyable and healthy meals that adhere to the Dietary Guidelines."

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines contain key nutritional messages, Francis said: build a healthy plate; cut back on foods high in solid fats, sugar and sodium; and eat the recommended calories for an individual’s activity level and weight goals.

“Making smarter choices can help you meet these recommendations without sacrificing taste or enjoyment,” Francis said.

MyPlate (at is an icon that shows how to build a healthy plate. Make half the plate fruit and vegetables, a quarter lean protein and a quarter grain -- preferably whole grain --- and include a low-fat or fat-free dairy product, too, Francis said.

“When planning a healthy meal, you don’t need to sacrifice taste. It can be as simple as making several small changes that don’t impact overall taste or enjoyment,” Francis said.

The ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist offered the following “meal makeover” that doesn’t completely change the taste of the meal; it just makes it healthier by reducing calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium, and increasing fiber.

“Before” Meal

4 ounces fried fish, 1 cup French fries, 1 biscuit, 16 oz. soda
Nutritional analysis: 797 calories, 34g total fat, 66mg cholesterol, 884mg sodium 101g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 25g protein

MyPlate Makeover Meal

4 ounces pan-fried fish, 1/2 cup oven baked French fries, 1 cup tossed salad with 2 tablespoons dried cranberries and 1 tablespoon ranch dressing, whole grain dinner roll and 1 cup 1% milk
Nutritional analysis: 429 calories, 18g total fat, 25mg cholesterol, 636mg sodium, 51g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 19g protein

Francis also suggested that Iowans limit their intake of processed, pre-made and packaged foods to help reduce their intakes of fats, sugar and sodium. Often, the homemade versions of these foods are relatively easy and quick to make. For healthy, low-cost and easy-to-prepare recipes visit

“You might try MyPlate’s Supertracker (,” Francis said. “Supertracker is intended to help people track their food intake and physical activity. It will provide a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan, as well as tips to help you make healthier choices.”

Live Healthy Iowa

The Live Healthy Iowa 10-Week Challenge continues throughout the state. This team-based weight loss and physical activity program helps Iowans make positive changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. To learn more or register, visit Live Healthy Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

For more information on nutrition and health, visit